Seed World

New Partnership to Boost Food Security in Africa By Use of AI

Atlas AI, a Silicon Valley-based public benefit corporation founded in partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation, and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), an African-led, farmer-centered institution transforming smallholder agriculture with support from The Rockefeller Foundation and other partners, announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) forming a unique collaboration to address food insecurity in 11 sub-Saharan African nations.

The MOU establishes an agreement between both Atlas AI and AGRA to collaborate around predictive analytics for smallholder agriculture, through applications of satellite imagery and machine learning to offer useful insights in areas of land use, yields, and peak time for harvest, input distribution gaps, and other contextual monitoring aspects.

In a continent where about 70% of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihoods — and smallholder farmers account for 90 percent of food production, this collaboration will utilize Atlas AI’s cutting-edge tools together with AGRA’s unique local data sets to help improve food security across sub-Saharan Africa. It will unpack the results from predictive analytics to aid government and private sector decision-makers in the face of emerging threats and shocks such as changing weather, diseases and pests. It will support regional bodies in advancing the continental and global agricultural agenda.

“At The Rockefeller Foundation, we recognize that technology has the power to improve food security that is critical for both human welfare and economic growth in Africa, and we’re optimistic that this relationship represents the future of defeating large-scale food insecurity around the world,” says Rajiv Shah, president of The Rockefeller Foundation. “I am excited that AGRA and Atlas AI will work together to drive agricultural transformation that will improve the lives of millions of smallholder farmers and the communities they serve.”

Since 2006, AGRA has worked to transform Africa’s smallholder farming from a struggle to survive to a business that thrives through efforts to develop and deliver high-yielding and locally adapted seeds, improve soil fertility, upgrade storage facilities, improve access to markets, strengthen farmers’ associations, expand access to credit for farmers and suppliers, and advocate for national policies that benefit smallholder farmers and agribusinesses.

“There have been many exciting advances in data, satellite imagery, and machine learning for agriculture over the years. Until recently, very little of this technologies has been available to African farms due to the inability of farmers and governments to pay for them,” says Agnes Kalibata, president of AGRA. “We are delighted to partner with Atlas AI and the Rockefeller Foundation in making these cutting edge advances in digital technology real and bringing them home for the millions of smallholder farmers we work with to improve their yields and lives.”

Founded in 2018 by Stanford Professors David Lobell, Stefano Ermon, and Marshall Burke, Atlas AI brings world-class AI solutions to sustainable development. The teams uses cutting-edge machine learning to help decision-makers get more impact at lower costs through better planning, management, and assessment. In February 2019, Victoria Coleman — former CTO of the Wikimedia Foundation vice president and vice president of Engineering at Yahoo! — joined Atlas AI as its inaugural CEO.

“Atlas AI is excited to formalize our partnership with AGRA, which represents an important milestone for us,” says Victoria Coleman, CEO of Atlas AI. “They have an impressive footprint across Africa, and we share their commitment to transform smallholder agriculture. By working together, we hope to be more effective in growing agribusinesses and agricultural markets across the continent.”

A data-driven philanthropy focused on partnering for the greatest impact, The Rockefeller Foundation has long a history of supporting innovative organizations such as Atlas AI and AGRA. This new partnership allows Atlas AI and AGRA to use technology to the benefit the millions of smallholder farmers who are unable to invest in tools and technologies that could increase yields and improve the lives of millions. The Foundation maintains a seat on both Atlas AI’s and AGRA’s Board of Directors and will continue to be an active partner focused on long-term stewardship of results-oriented, global human development outcomes.